There are a few major differences between the civilizations that developed in North america, Mesoamerica, and South America. However the differences are not as impressive as the similarities. The most appropriate way to compare civilizations on different land masses is to extract one civilization from each location, and compare them. This allows for a more accurate representation, instead of generalizing about each area.
The civilizations that played the most important role in each of the locations are, the Anasazi civilization from North America. The Aztecs from mesoamerica, and the Incas from South America. The first distinction which has a lot to do with the development of a civilization is location. Each of these civilizations had a very different amount of land under their control. Not only did they control a different size of land, but the type of land they controlled was different.
The Anasazi controlled the West coast of North America, modern day California, which was known as the great Basin. The Aztecs were in control of the Yucatan peninsula between the gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean sea, and also bordered the pacific ocean from the south. And finally the Incas extended along the western coast of south america also bordering the pacific ocean. A very important factor to point out is that the Incas controlled the portion of the Andes mountains that spread onto South America, giving them a geographical advantage against intruders.
The geography of each civilization may have an affect on the way it chooses to rule its people. For instance the Incas had a centralized government with the capital city of Cuzco. As apposed to the Aztecs who ruled through city states, however they still all payed tribute to the Aztec King Tenchtitlan. A city state in this case is a partially independent (also controlled by the king) city as well as the area around the city. Tenchtitlan had the power to make rules that all the city states had to follow, the people also had to follow rules that city state ruler made. The Aztec city states not only differed by rules, but also religion.
Both the Aztec and Inca civilizations were polytheistic, which means they believed in more than one god. This allowed a choice of worship for the people. A key distinction that must be made is that the Aztecs believed strongly in nature gods. They believed in Huitzilopochtli the sun god, and Quetzalcati the feathered serpent along with many others. The Anasazi also believed very strongly in nature as a form of religion. The decedents of the Anasazi say that their ancestors had achieved great spiritual power and control over natural forces. Their legend also states that they were able to use their power in ways that caused nature to change, sometimes even uncontrollably. Archaeological evidence shows that their very elaborate religious temples were deliberately abandoned over an extended period of time.
All three of these civilizations built very innovated structures. The Aztecs built stepped pyramids for religious rituals, the Incas constructed vast cities on the tops of mountains. And finally the Anasazi created enormous houses holding up to 60 people. These sophisticated ruins indicate that all of these civilizations possessed inferior architectural skills. It is surprising though, that neither the Anasazi nor the Incas (other than Quipo, mainly for record keeping) had any form of written language. However the Aztecs used a Mayan style hieroglyphics and books scribed on bark. Therefore each of these civilizations developed to a different degree in different subjects.
The rate and progress of development is the major differences these civilizations share. Even though each of these cultures had many major similarities, for instance neighboring vast amounts of water.
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